If you are like most church leaders, you have read or been forwarded one of the handful of articles by CNN, The Washington Post or the Barna Group that went viral last year about what millennials look for in churches. They are not looking for better advertising or a pastor who wears skinny jeans, but depth in relationship, a church involved in its community and the opportunity to ask questions that don't have predetermined answers.
You don't have to be the church with the loudest band or the most expensive lighting equipment to minister with this population. If you deal with real issues in open ways and get your hands dirty to improve your community, you will do well with this group. How do you begin?
Try delving into difficult topics in your sermon on Sunday morning and put up posters or invitation cards in local coffee shops and places where millennials spend their time. You can also get the word out online. The goal with this marketing is to make the statement that your church is involved in the community and wrestles with difficult topics in non-dogmatic ways. To do that, it is important to choose series and topics that push outside of your typical exegesis of the sower and the seed.
Here are ideas to help you to start dreaming about your newfound sermon outreach.
Taboo: the questions you aren't supposed to ask. The title says it all. Take a moment and get a list of tough questions from your leaders. What History Channel questions have their friends asked? What cultural topics cause debate? Study taboo topics and present that information in the context of the grace and love of God.
Engage in the movement. The reality is that God is moving in the world right now. Not only that, God has most likely placed vision and passion for how to bring that reign more fully in the hearts of your people. The idea here is to talk about those ideas and help people to identify a problem and develop a reasonable, actionable solution.
Once people identify a problem to address, ask, "What can two or three people in the local or global community do to make a difference in this problem?" From there, people can reach out and start ministering! After launching several outreach opportunities, you can fill another series with the stories of ministry that is happening. If you do several of these in one event, check out these tips for planning a successful service event. Learn how to engage in global mission without leaving your church.
Top stories: God's reaction. This is another action-based series. Begin by identifying an outside source to decide what the top news stories were in the previous week. Then develop your teaching about what Scripture says about it and how God calls us to respond as Christians. Each week, conclude with something to do (ideally, right there in the service) about whatever issue is weighing on the minds of your community. Since you will be using the media's stories, this may be a great way to collaborate and get them to cover your unique sermon series.
Like a kiss on the lips. Proverbs 24:26, CEB, says, "Those who speak honestly are like those who kiss on the lips." Relationships are huge for young people who are likely simultaneously trying to start a career and date. Taking time to talk openly about how to grow deep, lasting relationships is practical and relevant. Marriage Encounter has great resources to help in sermon preparation, including helpful instructions on successful dialogue and the five love languages. In print, Growing Love in Christian Marriage is a United Methodist resource that is a great place to start. Bringing in "relationship experts" to interview that range from longtime couples to professional marriage and family counselors could provide for a different format and an engaging presentation. If you don't know a marriage and family counselor, check out the directory on the UMC Marriage and Family Ministries site.